Summary: "Do you believe in God?" Ray asks himself.
Fandom: due South/Battlestar Galactica
Warnings: Character death, but don't let that stop you---it's complicated. Some content in the last chapter, "Life", is both quoted and paraphased from elementalv's original story, linked below.
Spoilers: various minor things from all four seasons of dS, and the BSG mini-series.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Soul Surrender, by elementalv
Here where North, the night, the berg of death
Crowd me out of the ignorant darkness,
I see at last that all the knowledge
I wrung from the darkness—that the darkness flung me—
Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
Randall Jarrell, "90 North"
When it finally penetrates that Fraser is going to lie there in the snow until someone else moves him, Ray feels as though reality has betrayed him, as though the poles have reversed, the laws of gravity repealed themselves. Night is coming on and Ray's shadow oozes like an oil spill over the melting snow, but he cannot move until Fraser moves, and Fraser isn't moving. All their emergency supplies are scattered in a semi-circle around the overturned sled, and the dogs, tangled in their harness, are lying in an oblivious, contented heap at the center of the wreck. They whine when Ray looks out over the snow in their direction. They have to know what's happening - they can smell death - they probably just don't see why it should interfere with dinner.
Something in Fraser has wanted this for years, Ray thinks numbly. He remembers how Fraser had looked lying in a coffin, cheeks rouged, brass buttons shining. For a second the pain is physical, like the pulse from a broken bone, and then it is gone. Ray's arms and legs feel stiff, stuffed with straw.
There's some growling when Ray stumbles over to the team and pulls the knife from his boot, but Truman, his lead dog, shuts the rest of them up. He nuzzles Ray's hand fondly as he cuts through the ropes that bind him to the harness, then turns away and scatters with the rest of the team into the sunset. Ray misses Diefenbaker, three years dead, for a brief, passionate instant.
Then Ray rolls Fraser onto his back and stretches himself out alongside him to wait for night.
"Do you believe in God?" Ray asks himself.
Ray is lying on the ground, looking up at his body. He's got to be having one of those, what do you call thems, near-death chlorine neurotransmission things, but it's weird to be looking up instead of down at himself. He's pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to work.
He's reminded of his last long hospital stay, after the thing with the kid in the warehouse in '83. He'd taken one to the shoulder and spent the next six weeks floating in a morphine dream, rambling out loud about his dead grandma and freaking Stella out. Ray curls up closer to Fraser and stares at the moon. The hypothermia's as good as drugs, and everywhere he looks the clouds billow silver-white in the moonlight, like white lace curtains in a clean white room.
No, actually. Nothing like that at all.
"Do you believe in God?" he says again. Ray can't help thinking that's something he should already know about himself.
"Our Father who art in Heaven," Ray mumbles. Fraser's hand is like ice in his, like something not even human. "Yo ho ho, and a bottl'a rum."
"Blasphemy," says the other Ray, but he's smiling.
"Don't tell my mom, Sister," Ray pleads, and passes out.
The hands that raise him up, pry him from Fraser's side, are colder, stronger than flesh and bone could possibly be, but he doesn't notice.
"Perhaps you were spirit walking," says Eric, handing Ray a mug of coffee.
Ray has no idea how long Eric's been waiting for him to take the mug; time's got a funny shape these days, it doesn't stay solid. He closed his eyes in the dark, in the snow, Fraser stretched out beneath him, and when he opened them again he was lying on a bed in Eric's spare room. He's been here ever since, staring at the back of his eyelids, waiting to wake up, no, not like that, wake up for real, in a world where Fraser's out hunting, or on patrol, or making a supply run to Tuk, not laid out in his dress uniform on a plank in Eric's shed.
"I was out of my head," Ray mumbles. He's never been good with words. He's tried explaining what he saw to Eric, and the stuff Eric comes out with in return, it's just bullshit, not even the kind of bullshit Fraser says where you know there's a meaning in there somewhere that'll make sense in an hour or a day once it's rattled around in the back of your mind for awhile.
"Your soul was wounded," says Eric. His voice pierces the fog in Ray's head. It's like the glare of the sun against the snow, inescapable. "It went out in search of shelter."
"Shelter, on the tundra. Oh yeah, that makes sense."
"How else do you explain it? I saw you with my own eyes. You came to me, and I followed you to the place where the sled overturned. Your body was moments from death. And then you disappeared in the night." Eric's grin is bright in the early morning darkness. "Didn't even stick around to help me drag you back, you bastard."
Ray blinks. The coffee's in his hands now; he doesn't remember how it got there.
"Do you believe half the stuff you say?" he says, tasting coffee in his mouth. He doesn't remember drinking it.
"What I believe," says Eric, "isn't the point."
There's an official RCMP-type funeral for Fraser in Inuvik. Lots of folks come, most of them people Ray never saw before, except for Maggie. He fucks off at some point in the middle of the third verse of "Amazing Grace" and sits on the back steps of the building, watching the smoke from his cigarette make a filmy grey stain against the pristine blue and white horizon. Maggie comes out a minute later and sits down beside him. She doesn't talk, or try to make him talk. She's a lot like Fraser. He's grateful for that, and he hates it too.
"I gotta go back to Chicago," he says. He didn't know it till he said it. "People there, they'll want to know what happened."
"Do you want me to come?" she says. She says it in a neutral voice, like she's got no feelings at stake, like the only thing that matters is what he wants.
Ray knows that what he wants isn't the issue. He owes it to Fraser to look after what's left of his family, and putting himself and his crap on Maggie, that's not the way to do it. Stella taught him better than that; he's a slow learner, but he's had a few years for it to sink in.
"I'm good," he says, and Maggie lets it lie. In some ways she's not much like Fraser at all.
When he gets to Chicago he takes a cheap room in a shitty little dive where you can pay by the day or by the hour. He drops off his bag, knowing there's a good chance he'll never see it again, and heads straight into town for the two-seven.
Welsh has already got the news from somebody—Ray can see it in his face. Welsh shuts the door of his office behind them and pulls the bottom drawer of his desk open. Ray ducks his head, like you do in church when the priest blesses the communion wafer. He's been through this ritual a few times before.
"Sit," says the Lieutenant. "Drink."
Ray falls bonelessly back on the ugly sofa, feels broken springs shift beneath his weight. Welsh carries the bottle and two glasses over and eases his bulk onto the cushions. He moves gingerly, and it takes Ray by surprise, even though he knows they're both older these days.
"Thanks," says Ray, when Welsh hands him the glass. Funny, he hasn't been drinking much over the last couple of weeks. When Stella kicked him out of the house—the single event in Ray's past that did anything at all to prepare Ray for losing Fraser—he did nothing but drink, right up to the day he got the call about the undercover gig at the two-seven. When that happened, pulling himself together and drying himself out had been as much a punishment as the endless cycle of vomiting before it, and even more satisfying in a way, because undercover is never not dangerous and opportunities to throw himself into the line of fire had been exactly what he was looking for.
"So," says Ray. "You got an assignment for me?"
He looks at Welsh and Welsh looks at him and then Ray cracks a grin and they're both laughing, because they've known each other long enough that Ray can count on Welsh to read the shorthand, and Ray knows without Welsh having to spell it out that Ray's career in the Chicago P.D. is long done, no take backs, no second chances.
"How long you here for, anyway?" says Welsh, when the laughing's all done.
"Dunno," says Ray. He knocks the whiskey back, surprises himself by almost gagging on it. He's out of practice. "Waiting for something to happen."
"Kowalski?" says Vecchio through a crack in the front door. "The hell you doin' here?"
Time was, that attitude of Vecchio's pushed every button Ray had. Whenever they got near each other Ray started making like Diefenbaker on the hunt, hair bristling, teeth bared. Maybe it was because of Fraser, or Stella, or maybe it had to do with living Vecchio's life for a year—whatever. Ray's over it now. He looks at Vecchio now and all he sees is a guy who doesn't know his heart's about to break.
Vecchio's not stupid, though, and as they stand there, staring at each other, his sneer begins to wilt. He's already guessed what he's doing here, Ray figures, but he doesn't want to admit it's real yet.
"Where's Fraser?" Vecchio says, quietly, and Ray just shakes his head, once.
At first Ray can't figure out where the roar is coming from, because it's like no noise he ever thought the human throat could make. Then he sees the way Vecchio's mouth is twisting. He doesn't see the fist coming for him, but he sees the world explodes into white light in front of his eyes and the next thing he knows he's lying flat on his back on the Vecchios' front porch and he hears voices above him, Vecchio shouting, and Frannie, that's Frannie, and Stella's here, thank God, he wants to see Stella like he's never wanted anything in his life—
"Ray." He blinks a few times, and when his vision clears Stella is leaning over him, her hand hovering an inch from his face. "Oh, Ray. What happened?"
"Yeah, you tell her." Vecchio shouts down at him over Frannie's shoulder. She's holding him back, but he could toss her aside in a second. It's not Ray that Vecchio really wants to hurt. "You tell her how you got my best friend killed, you little shit!"
"Ray." He can't tell which of them Stella's talking to; she looks back and forth between them, and finally comes to settle on Vecchio, who's crying now, and trying to hide it. Frannie's got her hands on his shoulders, but she's looking down at Ray, shocked and still. Ray shuts his eyes, shuts her out.
"Ray, go in the house." That's Stella, talking to Vecchio. "I'll be right there."
"I want him out of this house."
"You split his face open, Ray, I can't just kick him out."
"Nah, s'okay," says Ray, mumbling. His mouth feels thick and swollen, and he gives Vecchio a clumsy thumbs-up. "Had it coming."
"Here," says Stella. She hands something to Ray; he can't see through his swelling eye, but he can tell by the feel that it's a plastic baggie full of ice, wrapped in a dishcloth. Same old Stella, always the grown-up. He lets himself smile.
She sits down beside him, and after a moment of silence that isn't awkward because Ray's too fuzzy in the head to get awkward right now, she covers his hand with hers.
"You okay?" she says. He knows without looking at her that she means his face and not—anything else. She doesn't ask stupid questions.
"I'm sorry I told Vecchio like that." It's still hard for him to talk, but the ice is helping. "I should've called him when it happened. I just thought—I owed him a face to face."
"You knew what he'd do," she says. Ray meets her eyes for a second, but there's no disapproval there, just resignation. She sighs, and takes the ice pack out of Ray's hand, holds it up to his eye. Ray relaxes against her hand.
This, he thinks, was worth coming back to Chicago for. Not because he wants Stella back, but because being with her reminds him that he was somebody before he ever met Benton Fraser. It makes him think that maybe one day he can remember how to be that person again.
"You were happy with him," she says, and it's not a question, because she knows the answer. She knows Ray better than anyone alive.
Her hand tightens around his when he begins to cry, and she doesn't let go until he's done.
Ray ends up staying in the Vecchios' spare room for the next two days. Frannie and Stella make the decision, and Ray and Vecchio are too well trained to argue. Ray figures Ma Vecchio is smiling down on them from heaven. She always liked a crowded house.
He and Vecchio settle in one night with a few beers and pretty soon they're having a contest, a "who can tell the most outrageous story about Fraser" contest, and by four o'clock in the morning Ray thinks they might actually be friends, or could be, if he stayed here, if he worked at it. He wonders if he will.
And then the next morning he wakes up, and the first thing he thinks is, I'm homesick. It startles him, because he used to say 'home' and mean 'Chicago', but not anymore. Just to make sure, he gets out of bed and opens the window and sniffs the air for snow. All he can smell is the stench of the paper mill six blocks east. He takes it as a sign.
"What are you going to do out there without him, Ray?" Stella says, watching him pack. "You're going to spend the winter in a cabin in the Arctic, which was crazy enough when you were living with the Canadian MacGyver, but now—?"
Part of the reason Ray will never stop loving Stella is that she's the kind of person who doesn't flinch when Fraser's name comes up. She knows Ray isn't made of glass, that sometimes he wants to talk about Fraser and sometimes he doesn't—either way, he can handle it.
"I'll be fine," he promises her. He'd said the same thing to Maggie. He's still not sure if he's lying or not.
He's jittery the whole trip back, and he doesn't think it's just because he can't smoke. He wants to breathe clean air again, feel the snow pack under his boots, fight to keep the wind from stealing the breath from his lips.
He changes planes three times, and the bush pilot who picks him for the final run into Tuktoyaktuk is a familiar face. "Good to see you, Ray," he says, as Ray climbs up into the co-pilot's seat. "Wondered if you'd be back."
"Yeah, lot of that going around," Ray says, and manages a grin.
Their neighbors have been taking care of the cabin since he's been gone. Ray finds the shed full of kindling and split logs, and the pantry's been stocked with oatmeal and rice and coffee and three jars of Emma Ataasiq's best preserves. Eric's been looking after the dogs. All but one of them made their way back to town after Ray cut them loose. He doesn't ever want to get on another sled for as long as he lives, but he figures he owes them for being so loyal, so his second day back he takes the team out for a run.
He's a good shot, but a shit tracker, which is why Fraser'd always done most of the hunting, but Ray knows this area pretty well. All the evidence of the accident will be long gone by now, covered in snow or dragged off by people passing through, but Ray knows how to find it again. He's used to going on hunches, but it's stronger than that, a feeling of sureness, rightness, as he drives the team faster, over the top of the rise and down into the hollow where Ray had found Fraser's body, curled like a question mark, dark against the snow.
He brings the team to a halt and stands there for a second, blinking against the wind. For a brief, dizzying moment, he's drawn backwards through time, and he's out in the snowy Canadian wilderness for the first time, surrounded by snowfall and echoing emptiness, but none of that matters because Fraser is standing beside him, and the grin on his face could have powered a sun—
"Fuck," says Ray, feeling the sting of tears in his eyes. It's not quite cold enough to freeze them to his eyelashes yet, but they're dangerous anyway. He wipes them away.
He knows the RCMP investigated the accident. He got a phone call from Meg Thatcher, of all people, who got back from being James Bond in the desert about a year ago and was all kinds of big with the Mounties these days. She'd been kind, but she didn't have anything to tell him, 'cause the Mounties hadn't found anything. Ray figures his chances aren't any better, but he has to try. There are about a million and one ways to die in the Arctic, and Ray used to lie awake at night dreaming up new ones whenever Fraser was out on a long patrol, but losing control of his sled and breaking his neck in the snow had been at the bottom of the list, even when Ray was at his most paranoid, 'cause it didn't make any sense, Fraser was born on the back of a damn dog sled—
Ray walks every inch of the little hollow, but he can't find a thing. He doesn't know what he was looking for, exactly—a snare abandoned by poachers, a rock buried in the snow, something hidden so well not even Fraser would see it. But there's nothing. He rises slowly from a crouch and looks out against the horizon, shielding his eyes from the sun. There's something moving out there, but from this distance he can't tell if it's a person or an animal. He hadn't brought the shotgun; he hasn't got anything but the knife he wears in his boot. He feels strangely okay with this.
It's a person; that becomes obvious after a minute, and he's moving fast, on skis. Ray takes in the light of the setting sun reflected against the snow and takes a few steps towards a rock close to where the dogs are lolling on the ground, watching him with idle curiosity. He sits, and reaches out to ruffle the fur on Truman's neck. Truman whines uneasily, and Ray frowns, then looks back toward the horizon.
And there he sees himself.
He blinks, thinking it's a trick, some kind of screwy reflection with light and water molecules and axial tilt or some shit like Fraser's always talking about, but then a memory surfaces, and a cold that has nothing to do with the wind creeps up his spine. He remembers lying on his back in the snow, Fraser's body still beneath him, the vastness of the sky and stars wheeling above him—and then a face appearing, a voice as familiar as his own, talking to him, asking him questions.
"What the hell—" Ray gets to his feet, takes a step forward. The man with his face is just a few feet away, stepping out of his skis, and his expression is grim, but not surprised. "Who are you?" Ray demands, and finds himself shifting into stance, ready to go a round with this guy before he even opens his mouth.
The stranger takes a step forward, and tilts his head to one side, gives him a long, slow look. His eyes are bright blue—Ray's sure his own eyes aren't as bright as that—
He doesn't see the blow coming, just the stars that explode into brilliance before his eyes as the ground comes rushing up to meet him. Somewhere, far in the distance, he hears the dogs erupt into a cacophony of furious barking, and he thinks, well at least someone will miss me. Then he thinks, Ben, and all the stars go out.
It's full dark when he wakes up, and he can’t hear the dogs. Truman should be whining and pawing at him, but there are no noises in the night except the wind, ruffling the tarp over his sled.
He's probably dying. Ray tastes the thought, lets it roll around in his mind for a few moments. Maybe it's for the best. He wouldn't let himself think this way in broad daylight when he's wide awake, but here in the dark and the cold, his blood running sluggishly in his veins, death seems like a good choice, a smart choice—it's like trying to decide whether or not you really need to wake up for the alarm clock when you've only had a couple hours of sleep. You always, always roll over and yank the alarm clock out of the wall. At least Ray always did.
Anyway, there's always the chance he'll see Ben. There's enough power in that thought to knock whatever struggling sense of self-preservation he has left right on its ass.
He shuts his eyes and tries to think of something pleasant, something holy, to help him die. Years of Catholic education, he should be able to come up with something. But a voice cuts through his feeble attempts to trace a line of thought, and he finds that he can't help but listen.
“You have to wake up,” it's saying.
Ray screws his eyes shut even tighter, and hunches in on himself. He doesn't want to talk to the angel of death, or the voice in his head, or whatever the hell else is out there. He wants to go to sleep. Then the voice speaks again.
"Benton Fraser is not dead," it says, and just like that, Ray's eyes are open, and he's wide awake, brain pumping on all cylinders. It's a strange feeling—painful, too, like rewarming your body after you've skirted the edge of hypothermia.
Blearily, Ray pushes himself upright. As soon as he sees the moonlit face of the man crouched in the snow across from him, he remembers how he got here, what he was doing before he fell, and it's like there's a door in his mind with a rusty lock that he's been prying at with a crowbar for weeks—suddenly it flies open, and the pieces fall into place. He looks at the stranger walking around in his skin, and he knows.
"You took him," he says, and the fury he feels is a quiet, deadly thing, a trip wire in the snow.
The stranger nods, holds out his hand. "And now I'm going to take you to him."
Ray stares at him. The anger doesn't go away, but there's a flicker of something else, hot and wild in the pit of his stomach, and even if he doesn't trust it yet, he's not going to stamp it out. The stranger's eyes are bright and cold, like a shadow on a glacier, but Ray has already seen the worst that life can do to him, and he's not afraid.
He climbs to his feet, ignoring the stranger's hand. His legs are shaky and his feet are numb, but the fist at his side feels warm and sure and strong.
"Well, what the fuck are we waiting for?" says Ray. The grin he gives the stranger is bright and fierce, and it seems to take the other man by surprise. He looks wary, but Ray doesn't back down. He's lived in the Arctic for years now; he knows when to show his teeth.